The best part about being a journalist is that I get to go to places I never would otherwise and learn about about something I never even considered. Such was the case Monday morning, when I wound up at Precision Prosthetics in Casper. The story was about a Kelly Walsh junior who donated an artificial leg to a doctor that has been refashioning them for residents of Haiti.
Here's what I learned:
- It takes about 20 hours to make an artificial limb. It's usually done over three weeks, with the patient visiting once a week to get fitted or refitted.
- Artificial arms are infinitely more complex and expensive than legs. Think about it: every wrist and elbow movement is a nuanced combination of muscles and joints. The leg, however, is simpler. An artificial foot doesn't necessarily have to swivel right and left in order to be useful.
- Concerning price, the sky's the limit. A "below-the-knee" prosthesis (exactly what it sounds like) can cost $5,000. An "above-the-knee" type can run $45,000. An arm with a fully-functioning hand can cost upwards of $80,000.
- Kamil Leman, prosthetist and owner of Precision Prosthetics, said he's noticed that artificial legs wear down faster in Haiti. Why? Because the terrain is uneven and people don't use motorized transportation often, like Americans.